Spain stuns host Dutch to advance in Group L
by Andrew PODNIEKS|17 DEC 2023
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation
Playing on home ice and having the superior World Ranking, the Netherlands looked like the team to beat heading into Group L round-robin play this weekend, but that’s exactly what Spain did, defeating the hosts, 4-3, in the penultimate game this afternoon at IJssportscentrum. With the win, the Spaniards advance to Round 3 of the Olympic qualification which will take place 8-11 February 2024.

Spain 4-Netherlands 3

Bruno Baldris’s power-play goal midway through the third period broke a 3-3 tie with the Netherlands and sent Spain on their way to the next round of Olympic qualifying this afternoon in Tilburg.
Netherlands was the higher-seeded team but could not hold a 1-0 lead after the first period. Spain scored three goals to take command in the second, only to see the Dutch rally to tie. In the third, however, Spain was the better team and deserved the win.
The only goal of a tense opening period came on a power play in the final minute, and, of course, it came off the stick of captain Danny Stempher, who led the tournament in goals (5), assists (8), and points (13). He fired a low wrist shot to the stick side of Raul Barbo from the slot, beating the goalie with just 58.6 seconds left in the opening 20 minutes.
That crucial goal was wiped out early in the second by the Spaniards, however. They tied the game 1:23 into the middle period when Gaston Gonzalez tipped a point shot past Cedrick Andree, starting his first game after watching Martijn Oosterwijk play the first two. The 23-year-old Andree is a native of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and played his junior hockey with the local OHL 67’s, but more recently he has been a fixture with the Tilburg Trappers.
The Spanish rattled in two quick goals midway through the period to take control, the first an easy tap-in off a rebound by Alejandro Burgos, and two and a half minutes later by Dorion Donath, whose long shot snuck under the arm of Andree. But the Netherlands fought back, making it 3-2 soon after on a nice goal from Guus van Nes who beat Barbo with a deke at 15:02.
Less than two minutes later, Jay Huisman knocked in a rebound off a Bjorn Borgman shot to tie the game, sending teams to the dressing room with the knowledge that progress in Olympic qualification now would be decided by a one-period showdown (and possible overtime, of course).
That outcome was decided when Spain earned a power play and Baldris’s shot found the back of the net at 7:39. It was the team’s tournament-leading 10th power-play goal of the weekend. Try as they might, the Dutch couldn’t generate many good chances the rest of the way, even when Andree was on the bench for the final two minutes for a sixth attacker.

Georgia 10-Thailand 0

Ivan Starostin stopped 15 shots as Georgia finished the qualification round robin with an impressive 10-0 thumping of Thailand. The Georgian offense was led by the trio of Andrey Romanov, Artem Kurbatov, and Vitali Dziov, all of whom had two goals and two assists. Nikita Bukiya had a goal and three helpers as Georgia finished the three-game tournament with a 1-2 record. The winless Thais, 0-3, had a goal differential of 3-38 and were outclassed by the superior competition this weekend.
Georgia distributed their scoring evenly over the game, scoring three times in the opening period, adding four in the second, and finishing with another three in the third, the last coming at 19:53 off the stick of Bukiya.
Kurbatov got things started with the first goal at 8:07, and Dziov added another two minutes later. When Romanov made it 3-0 in the final minute, the Georgians had the game well in hand.